Illustrated through six classic categories
The Nordic kitchen has been roaring through the gastronomic landscape for the past ten years. Naturally interest has started to grow in relation to the Nordic bars as well and the Scandinavian spirit of aquavit.
Aquavit is increasingly being used in bars internationally. The unique flavor profile of aquavit not only makes it a joy to drink neat, but makes it a particularly interesting category to work with in cocktails. In Scandinavia, however, innovation is needed to bring the aquavit into the new millennium due to the younger generation’s aversion towards the category. Luckily a lot of Scandinavian bartenders have seen the potential that aquavit holds, and are of the opinion that Scandinavian bartenders owe it to their cultural heritage to reinvent uses for aquavit in the contemporary bar. As Scandinavian restaurants explore new uses for local ingredients, why shouldn’t bars explore new uses for aquavit?
So what makes aquavit so interesting in relation to cocktails? The complexity of caraway and dill in aquavit provides a gin-like quality when used in cocktails. Aquavit can often be used much in the same way as gin – aquavit and tonic for instance with a slice of cucumber or red grape fruit works exceptionally well. Compared to gin however, aquavit has a more immediate and direct flavor profile given the simplicity of the distillate where only caraway and/or dill is used compared to the many herbs and spices in a gin. This also makes aquavit a very “honest” product in the sense that it will make you aware of its presence in a drink rather that blending in with the other ingredients undetected. In Denmark aquavit is often used as the base spirit in cocktails whereas in the States it is often used more like a spice. It is not uncommon for American bartenders to rinse a glass in aquavit or just adding a bar spoon to accentuate some flavor nuances in a cocktail.
In 2013 Nick Kobbernagel Hovind from Ruby and Rasmus Poulsgaard from Duck and Cover was invited to the annual Manhattan Cocktail Classic festival to give a talk on aquavit. to do justice to aquavit and all it has to offer, they dived into an intense research process: visiting distilleries, interviewing people within the industry and studying all the literature on the topic, they could find. This of course resulted in a great talk for the Manhattan Classics. The Americans loved aquavit – finding it to be the new cool kid on the block like mezcal and tequila had been for the past 4-5 years.
Based on the knowledge of aroma synergies they had gained, Nick and Rasmus created a flavor tree illustrating the botanical families and aromas associated with the essential components of aquavit. The tree is extremely inspiring to work with when experimenting with aquavit in cocktails (Find the flavor in our free ebook on aquavit cocktails).
Aquavit is a versatile spirit that can be used for many different types of cocktails with exceptional results. So lets look at some examples to put some proof behind this statement. The following cocktails are sampled from some of the best bars in Copenhagen and illustrate how aquavit is put to use within some classic cocktail categories.
Amber & Wine from Duck and Cover
This is an elegant variation on a martini combining the pine and resin of Norldguld Aquavit with the lightly sweet fortified wine Lillet Blanc. The hint of orange compliments the amber and brings out an exotic fruity quality in the drink which blends beautifully with the sweet Lillet blanc and the slice of lemon.
4 cl Nordguld aquavit
2 cl Lillet Blanc
1 barspoon of orange curacao
Stirred with ice and served in a martini glass. Garnished with a quarter slice of a lemon (a slice for fruitiness rather than the bitternes zesting).
The Jubilee Sour from Ruby
The Jubilee aquavit is a fantastic and simple aquavit dominated by dill, coriander seeds and caraway. In the Jubilee Sour from Ruby this green profile is accentuated by the apple brandy, cilantro and the cardamom pods, which offers a wonderful mix of herby summer flavors.
5 cl Aalborg Jubilæums aquavit
1 cl Malus X Apple brandy
3 cl fresh lemon juice
1,5 cl sugar syrup
1 dash egg white
1 cardamom pod
5 leafs of cilantro
Shaken with ice and double strained into a rock glass. Garnished with a cilantro leaf.
The perfect Manhattan…
The perfect Expedition from Curfew blends the deep cask matured plump notes of a double cask aged madeira linie aquavit with a mix of dry and sweet fortified wine making it a “perfect” manhattan variation.
5 cl double madeira linie
2 cl dry madeira wine
1,5 cl sweet madeira wine
1,5 bay leaf bitter liqueur
Stirred and strained into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a bay leaf.
The long drink…
Aquavit & Tonic
This is a fresh party starter. The tonic puts the caraway to the foreground but in a very pleasant and refreshing way. Aquavit works exceptionally well with tonic. Often a cucumber is used for garnish but this particular variation made by Carl Wrangel from the Barking Dog in collaboration with VI.ER Akvavit calls for grapefruit.
3.5 cl taffel style aquavit
10 cl Tonic (Fever Tree is a good choice!)
Build over ice in a highball and garnish with a red grapefruit wedge.
The Old Fashioned…
Green old fashioned from No.2
Linie Aquavit brings the round taste of sherry casks and sense of seasalt, glasswort syrup provides salty-sweet maritime flavors to the drink, and celery adds fruity-fresh notes.
You haven’t had an old fashioned like this before, that’s for sure!
6 cl Linie aquavit,
2 barspoons Glasswort Syrup
2 dashes celery bitters
Stirred with ice and served over ice cubes. Garnished with a lemon twist.
Memories of Aalborg from Brønnum
At the first sip, this cocktail will remind you of a nice summer day. The vanilla notes of the Jubilæums akvavit blends nicely with the nutty crispness of the sherry which bridges to the fresh cucumber juice!
3cl Jubilæums Akvavit
3cl Fino Sherry
2cl cucumber juice
2cl lime juice
1.5cl spiced simple syrup
3cl (approx.) soda
2cl egg white
Dry shaked (excluding the club soda). Serverd in a high-ball glass with cubed ice. Topped with club soda that makes it “fizz” and garnished with a peel of cucumber. Served with soy smoked hazelnuts and hard danish cheese on the side
These six cocktails from top bars in Copenhagen illustrate the wide spectrum within which aquavit can be put to use. Four of the cocktails above are featured in our free ebook on aquavit cocktails among ten other intriguing recipes. Have fun exploring and let us know if you come up with some interesting ways to use aquavit!